Common law ‘urban myth’ causing separation anguish warns expert
An ‘urban myth’ surrounding the rights of couples living together is causing financial hardship, anguish and chaos in people’s lives, warns one of Leicestershire’s best known law experts
Kathryn Hicklin, a partner at QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank, said false beliefs surrounding the rights of co-habiting couples is leading to some lives being thrown into turmoil following relationship break-ups.
“It is a distressing situation, which is far too common” said Ms Hicklin, whose firm has branches in Coalville and Hinckley.
“There has been an urban myth doing the rounds for many years that living together for a specific period of time, sometimes stated to be two years, provides all manner of legal rights, but this simply isn’t true,” she warned.
“If a couple get together and one has substantial equity in the home, the person who has moved in will have no rights when they split up unless he or she can prove they have made a financial contribution, and proving this can get very messy,” she said.
She added that alternatively if a couple buy a house together and one puts down a significant sum on the deposit then that person may want to protect their investment in the event of a separation”
“Another example is if a home owner arranges for their partner to move into the home they already own they need to realise how contributions from their partner towards the mortgage, bills and other expenses on the property may be regarded in the event of a separation,” she added.
She advised seeking legal advice at the beginning of living together to ensure that legal positions are clear and protected, both of those who own a property which a partner moves into and of those who begin to contribute to the costs of running a house owned by their partner.
“It is important to discuss the financial implications of living together at the beginning of a relationship and not just trusting that it will all be ok,” she said “But often people shy away from this as they are in a new relationship and they don’t imagine that they will ever separate or don’t want to raise this as an issue for fear that it will impact upon the relationship”
Legal positions can be protected by drawing up documents such as a Cohabitation Agreement or a Deed of Trust and in any event a Will is very important. Such documents help with transparency and provide greater certainty for the future in the event of a separation.
“I’ve seen so many people utterly distraught and left struggling to prove their share of a property by not taking a few simple steps early in the relationship,” she added.
She said those unsure of their current situation should ensure they take legal advice from a recognised expert.
“This common law myth must be stamped out as it’s possibly one of the most harmful ones in today’s society and it’s the responsibility of legal professionals to do this,” she added.
“The whole subject is littered with pitfalls, which leads to trouble. The clearest advice I can give is take steps to ensure you’re not a victim.”
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